English Linguistics, Grammar and Other Concepts

Proper Use of English

The sentence “The old theory consistently failed to fully explain all the data” represents the case of the split infinitive (Sears, 2017). Despite not being a major mistake, it still showcases the improper use of English. Thus, it needs rephrasing. The sentence “I can’t remember the name of the person I gave the book to” incorporates two minor grammatical issues. The first and most obvious, the preposition at the end of the sentence instead of the beginning of a clause (“… the person to whom I gave the book”) needs to be mentioned (Torres-Gouzerh, 2015). In addition, the use of contractions makes the sentence informal.

Structural Ambiguity of Expressions

In the sentence “Flying planes can be dangerous,” “flying” can be identified as either Gerund, as in “It can be dangerous to fly planes,” or the Participle I of the verb “to fly,” meaning “The planes that fly can be dangerous” (Ungerer, 2017). Similarly, the sentence “We met an English history teacher” can be misunderstood depending on the interpretation of the word “English.” The latter may serve as the adjective that defines either the first noun (“history,” as in “We met the teacher teaching English history.”) (Kannan, 2015). Alternatively, the second one (“teacher”) may imply “We met a history teacher, who is English.”

Polysemy

The term “polysemy” originates from the Greek “poly” meaning “many” and “semi” meaning “sign” and implies the ability of a particular word to have two or more connotations (Glynn & Robinson, 2014). The specified connotations may have a tangible link between each other and, therefore, be closely related, or have little to no elements in common, yet the presence thereof is crucial for a word to represent a case of polysemy (Brenda, 2014). For example, the word “count” can be used as a verb meaning “to define the number” (“They count the bananas”) or as a noun meaning “a European social rank,” as in “Count Dracula.”

Cohesion and Coherence: Difference

As a rule, the term “coherence” suggests that the words in a sentence are connected syntactically and, therefore, allow a sentence to flow naturally (Crossley, Dascalu, Trausan-Matu, & Allen, 2016). Cohesion, in turn, requires a strong connection between the meaning of the words, i.e., it demands that a sentence makes sense (Crossley, Kyle, & McNamara, 2015). For example, from the perspective of coherence, the following text: “We saw a ghost. We ran. We got scared.” is correct, yet it lacks cohesion to make enough sense. To add cohesion to it, one may shape it in the following way: “We saw a ghost, which made us scared, so we ran away.”

Linguistic Determinism: Definition

The concept of linguistic determinism implies that the extent, to which people are capable of exploring the world around them and understanding, it is restricted by the language that they use (Kellman & Stavans, 2015). In other words, the notion suggests that people are limited in their analysis of the available information, as well as the cognition of the world and the universe, in the grand scheme, due to the mode of communication that they have chosen (Alam, 2017). The lack of words that could describe particular phenomena or notions, as well as the grammatical and syntactical rules predetermines the amount of knowledge that one can obtain.

Appropriate Approaches to Grammar

Teaching students even the basics of English grammar is a rather complicated task. The difficulty in learning stems primarily not from the complexity of the rules or the number of exceptions thereof, but from the problems that learners have applying the specified rules to a particular context. In other words, students need to understand the grammatical rules that they study as opposed to learning them by heart. Herein lies the necessity to provide the target audience with a context to which they could apply newly learned grammatical rules and principles. Therefore, a viable approach to grammar will require in-depth exploration of what specific constructions mean (Ghali, Ayyad, Abu-Naser, & Laban, 2018). Particularly, the system of the English Tenses will have to be scrutinized closely to ensure that students have a perfect understanding of why each tense is used in a certain scenario.

For this reason, the use of the descriptive approach to grammar seems to be the most reasonable strategy to use when teaching students the essentials of English grammar. According to the existing definition, the descriptive framework serves as the platform for building students’ knowledge of English grammar through exploring the nature thereof. As a result, learners develop a deep knowledge of the subject matter. In addition, the descriptive approach to teaching grammar helps students learn that some of the rules of formal English and be subverted depending on the context in which they are applied. Consequently, learners realize that the English language is not a conglomeration of rules but, instead, a set of interconnected structures that provide the platform for acquiring new knowledge about the language.

It could be argued that the adoption of the descriptive approach shapes learners’ idea of the language by pointing out that it, in fact, is life and developing along with the people that it represents. The descriptive framework shows the vast array of changes that the English language has experienced and that will continue to shape it in the future (Akay & Toraman, 2016). Consequently, students are prepared to discover that using English does not mean necessarily adhering to the rigid standards imposed on speakers by the English grammar and, thus, feel encouraged to explore the scenarios in which language rules can be bent.

Therefore, the proposed approach to teaching English can be seen as one of the most efficient ways of keeping students invested in the process of learning. It will not discourage them with an abundance of rigid rules that they may feel unable to learn. In addition, the descriptive framework gives an opportunity to develop an intrinsic understanding of how the English language works. Consequently, learners will be deeply motivated to study the language and, most importantly, use it. As a rule, it is rather difficult to encourage students to speak the language that they learn as their second one, yet the specified approach prompts them to engage in an English conversation.

Activity Script

Tutorial activity

The tutorial activity under analysis covers the vocabulary related to the family. Students need to develop the skills that will help them talk about their family members, family traditions, etc. It is still crucial to provide students with general knowledge of family-related words, phrases, and collocations. Herein lies the gravity of being unable to address the topic of family in modern society. The resulting lack of understanding of one’s values and the environment in which they were shaped will be detrimental to the outcome of a conversation. Thus, the passage shown in Figure 1 will be used to construct a family-related activity.

Passage for the Activity
Figure 1. Passage for the Activity (“About my family”, 2018).

Script

The students introduce themselves and show their family trees. They talk about the values and traditions of their families and discuss them in small (3-5 people) groups.

Background knowledge

One of the most fascinating things about the specified activity is that the students will be able to acquire essential cultural knowledge of English traditions and a new vocabulary while simply talking about their families. The identified characteristic of the task implies that literally, anyone can participate in the assignment, including students with special needs, students from different cultural backgrounds, and students that do not have a good understanding of English. Since the topic is both personal and at the same time quite general, it helps invest students in the process of learning and keep them motivated (Ochoa, Cabrera, Quiñónez, Castillo, & González, 2016). Telling stories about their families and sharing them with others will also encourage bonding and further the multicultural conversation, which is crucial to enhance the cohesion within the community.

As a result, the issue of diversity will be addressed, even though changes will occur at a comparatively low level and slow pace. Nevertheless, it is expected that students will revisit some of the ideas that may have prompted them to accept certain cultural biases. Consequently, the topic of the family will generate an open dialogue that will inspire learners to acquire new information and develop the skills that will help them learn English. The activity offers a platform for enhancing the learners to develop an intrinsic understanding of the language by relating to it on a personal level. The identified necessity stems from the fact that modern interactions are rooted deeply in a multicultural experience that they have to offer. By learning more about the background of the participants of a particular conversation, one will be able to relate to them.

Teaching students

The teacher will start by asking students about their families. Then, the teacher will explain one detail from the English culture that is related to family and that the students may find entertaining. As soon as the discussion is over, the student will be shown a poster that details family relationships in a very clear way, yet provides subtitles in English (Noreen, Ahmed, & Esmail, 2015). Therefore, the learners will understand intuitively the meaning of the English words. After they scrutinize the poster for about 5 minutes (they will be allowed to come closer to it to see the details that may interest them), the learners will be asked whether they need any further clarifications. Afterwards, the teacher will ask the students to build short sentences with at least one word from the poster (e.g., “My sister is tall”). The students will be given 10 minutes to complete the specified activity. When they are ready, they will read their sentences out loud.

When the students reach the level of motivation that will help them keep engaged when reading a relevant text, the passage mentioned above will be provided to them. The students will take turns to read the text and discuss its meaning, unknown words, and the differences between the information from the text and the interactions that occur in their families. The students will be asked to translate each sentence.

References

Akay, E., & Toraman, Ç. (2015). Students’ attitudes towards learning English grammar: A study of scale development. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 11(2), 67-82.

Alam, M. Y. (2017). Does language reciprocate cultural and vice versa in shaping of the society? On Indonesian Islam, Education and Science (ICIIES), 295-300.

Brenda, M. (2014). The cognitive perspective on the polysemy of the English spatial preposition over. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

About my family [Image]. (2018) Web.

Crossley, S. A., Kyle, K., & McNamara, D. S. (2016). The tool for the automatic analysis of text cohesion (TAACO): Automatic assessment of local, global, and text cohesion. Behavior Research Methods, 48(4), 1227-1237.

Crossley, S., Dascalu, M., Trausan-Matu, S., Allen, L., & McNamara, D. S. (2016). Document cohesion flow: Striving towards coherence. In 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 764-769). Philadelphia, PA: Cognitive Science Society.

Ghali, M. A., Ayyad, A. A., Abu-Naser, S. S., & Laban, M. A. (2018). An intelligent tutoring system for teaching English grammar. International Journal of Academic Engineering Research (IJAER), 2(2), 1-6.

Glynn, D., & Robinson, G. A. (2014). Corpus methods for semantics: Quantitative studies in polysemy and synonymy. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Kannan, V. P. (2015). English grammar: Simple, practical yet comprehensive, with multiple examples, exercises and key. Chennai, India: Notion Press.

Ochoa, C., Cabrera, P., Quiñónez, A., Castillo, L., & González, P. (2016). The effect of communicative activities on efl learners’ motivation: A case of students in the amazon region of Ecuador. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 18(2), 39-48.

Kellman, S. G., & Stavans, I. (2015). The translingual sensibility: A conversation between Steven G. Kellman and Ilan Stavans. L2 Journal, 7(1), 6-17.

Noreen, S., Ahmed, M., & Esmail, A. (2015). Role of students’ motivation, attitude and anxiety in learning English at intermediate level in Pakistan: A gender based study. Educational Research International, 4(2), 96-108.

Sears, K. (2017). Grammar 101: From split infinitives to dangling participles, an essential guide to understanding grammar. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Torres-Gouzerh, R. (2015). Practice makes perfect intermediate English grammar for ESL learners. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Professional.

Ungerer, F. (2017). How grammar links concepts: Verb-mediated constructions, attribution, perspectivizing. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.